“What Were They Thinking?”
That was the name for a special class of oddball cars presented at the 2013 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, in which the Pick of the Day must have played a starring role. Because you really have to wonder.
The 1950 BMW Veritas roadster with a custom body by German coachbuilder Hermann Spohn and perhaps the weirdest “barn find” ever recovered, was presented at the Florida concours amidst the class of wacky misfits. With towering, misproportioned tailfins and oddly designed grille, among other faux pas, the roadster was an apparent attempt to emulate Detroit dream cars of the era.
“It is a wonderful example of a coachbuilder experimenting with the boundaries of style, resulting in a fascinating and delightful caricature of the flamboyant 1950s Jet Age,” the St. Louis, Missouri, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com, concludes in the ad.
Although the BMW looks more carnival ride than road-going automobile, the roadster actually has very respectable lineage. Without that context, it probably would be considered just a funny-looking old car.
BMW Veritas racers and sports cars, with their normally simple and attractive bodies, were an effort by a small company to recapture the brilliance of Germany’s pre-war racing dominance (notwithstanding the dark political overtones). The seller includes in the ClassicCars.com listing a thorough retelling of the history of Veritas cars.
In a nutshell, the company was founded by three German friends and was soon cranking out a limited number of BMW-based sports and racing cars, which were highly acclaimed and very desirable today as collector cars.
“Veritas’ first customer was legendary racing driver Karl Kling, who promptly won his first event in 1947, and secured the 2-liter sports car championship that same year,” the seller says in the ad. “Soon the grids were filled with Veritas racers, and buyers pushed for road-going versions.
“(Company head Lorenz) Dietrich was happy to oblige, and in 1949 offered a series of production road cars with BMW running gear, lightweight tubular chassis, and coupe, cabriolet, or sports roadster coachwork by the well-known firm Hermann Spohn Karosseriebau.”
That’s right, the very same Hermann Spohn who designed this oddity.
“While most of Spohn’s production work with Veritas is relatively subdued, our featured car is one extraordinary exception,” the ad notes. “Chassis number 5089 started life as a standard Veritas SP90 cabriolet, purchased new by an unknown individual. Very early in its life, the car returned to Spohn, where it received extensive modifications to the customer’s wishes.
“They created an outlandish machine combining elements of the original design with over-the-top fins and jet-age styling cues inspired by the GM Le Sabre show car. Period press reports suggest turquoise as the original color, and photos show it with Cadillac-style sombrero hub caps, wide-whites, chrome rear wheel spats, and the distinct front-end treatment with the near-horizontal faux grille and faired-in headlamps.”
There’s no word as to whether the car’s owner was pleased with the results. Whatever, this cartoon on wheels must have been a bizarre sight traversing the battered landscape of post-war Germany, whose citizens were still struggling economically.
The BMW’s subsequent history is also strange, with it eventually landing in the monumental collection of automobiles, parts, collector’s items and ephemera amassed by Lee Hartung of Glenview, Illinois. The roadster spent 46 years in a barn until, after Hartung’s death, it was sold to a new owner who had the wisdom to leave it just as it was, complete with barn-find crud.
Which is how the St. Louis dealer is offering it today. The asking price is an eye-watering $235,000.
The BMW inline-6 under the hood looks clean, and the one-of-a-kind car is said to be running, which would present a delightful opportunity to impress and amaze your friends and neighbors with the strangest car on the block.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.